Tekeyan Celebrates Independence Anniversary of Armenia at New Jersey Event


The young performers at the conclusion of the concert, with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and several of the other dignitaries

By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — As the years go by, and Armenia continues to develop its statehood, the anniversary of the independence of the Armenian Republic becomes even more of a joyful occasion. The misery and desperate struggles of the initial years are gradually becoming ensconced in the pages of history, and Armenians can look forward to the future. It was in this festive vein that the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of Greater New York presented a cultural program on September 26 at the Dwight-Englewood High School. Nearly every seat in the auditorium was filled by the audience of approximately 500.

As pointed out by several speakers that afternoon, it was particularly symbolic that two cultural groups working to preserve traditional Armenian music and dance were present on the program, one from Armenia, and the other from the diaspora — New York in this case. Together they showed that Armenian folk art continues to live. What made the program particularly dynamic was that both groups were composed of vibrant and talented youngsters.

The young Sayat Nova students perform.

The Folk Instruments Ensemble of the Sayat Nova Music School provided both singers and musicians, who played everything from the kanun and oud to the duduk in a large ensemble, and performers of various classical instruments also were sent from the school. The director of the Sayat Nova School, Prof. Tigran Hekekyan, was present, along with Narine Zakaryan, who runs the department of traditional Armenian national instruments. The Sayat Nova School was an important institution in the Soviet period, and it seems that it has managed to preserve its high standards. The Sayat Nova School ensemble is touring various communities in the US with the support of the Ministry of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. The Amaras Art Alliance, founded in 1990 to support cultural exchange between Armenia and the United states, is another supporter of this tour.

Anoosh Barclay, lyric coloratura soprano, opened the program with the national anthems of the United States of America and the Republic of Armenia. Pianist Davit  Hovhannisyan, violinist Elizabeth Arakelyan and cellist Haik Sukiasyan, all teenagers from Armenia, performed pieces from Khachaturian, Babajanian, and Gomidas, while soloists Madlena Galstian, Van Muratyan, and Tigran Galstyan, again youngsters from Armenia, sang various folksongs in the second part of the program. All the performers from Armenia were obviously professionally trained and talented. Despite all the difficulties of the post-independence period, it was heartening that at least some of the cultural institutions from the Soviet period appeared to still be functioning well.

The Yeraz Dance Ensemble of New York, directed by Karnig Nercessian, was established at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Queens in 1999. Its dancers performed throughout the two parts of the program, adding motion and grace to the stirring music presented by the artists from Armenia. The presence of these volunteer dancers was testimony to continuing efforts made in the US to instruct the younger generations in the Armenian heritage.

Two patriotic pieces of Armenian poetry by Hovhannes Shiraz were recited by Armen Bandikian, Henry Dumanian, Shoghik Oganesian, Lena Danielian and Sona Gevorgian, each time in a group of three. All are members of Yeraz, except Oganesian, who belongs to Tekeyan.

While the general level of the program was high, there were some occasional problems in connection with the sound system. In some performances, such as a song by the soloist Van Muratyan, reverberation was heard, while the voice of Madlena Galstian, though excellent, was overwhelmed in several pieces by the orchestra.

After the musical portion of the program concluded, master of ceremonies Hagop Vartivarian, chairman of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of Greater New York, pointed out how important it was that along with Tekeyan, representatives of the highest bodies of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, the Knights of Vartan, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, under the patronage of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, had “come together to reconfirm our unwavering faith in our homeland, together with Artsakh.” He gave special thanks to Vartan Ilanjian, stage manager for the event, and congratulated Karnig Nercessian and Tigran Hekekyan for their work. Vartivarian then invited Barsamian on stage to give a plaque of recognition to Tigran Hekekyan. He then invited Ambassador Garen Nazarian, representative of Armenia to the United Nations, to speak on behalf of the homeland.

Nazarian thanked Tekeyan, the other organizers, and most of all the young performers, “who inspired us all.” He declared that the presence of Ashot Ghulyan, chairman of the National Assembly (parliament) of the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh (NKR) in the audience that day “gives special gravity and majesty” to the celebration of statehood and independence. Nazarian wished great success to Ghulyan’s mission in the US, and expressed the hope that with Armenia, diaspora, and Artsakh united, great progress would continue to be made in the future.

Ashot Ghulyan was then introduced, and he started by pointing out that “I could have only imagined in my dreams that I would be celebrating Armenia’s independence in New Jersey at a cultural program.” Ghulyan pointed out the importance of the US-Armenian relationship, now approximately one century old, and stressed that the issues of the Armenian Genocide, the blockade of Armenia, and the fate of Artsakh cannot be left aside.

Barsamian was invited to say a few words of summation. He stressed that the spirit of Vartanants was the foundation of the independence of Armenia today, and expressed his great joy that the Republic of Armenia was represented together with the other states of the world at the United Nations. He concluded with a blessing of the Armenian people, its state, and government.

Nazarian, during the intermission, told the readers of the Mirror-Spectator that it was wonderful that talented young Armenians from Armenia were joining together with diasporan Armenians to celebrate their heritage, and that he was honored to be able to participate in this commemoration. Reflecting on the presence of Ashot Ghulyan, he hoped that one day soon the international legal recognition of the full exercise of the rights of the people of the NKR for self-determination would also be celebrated.

Audience members came not only from the New York and New Jersey area but also from more distant places. Mihran Toumajan, who drove in from Pennsylvania, declared: “Having been familiar with the Sayat Nova Music School in Yerevan because my three cousins all graduated it and matriculated at the Komitas Conservatory, I felt this was indeed a tour de force by the students. The intricate balance that Hekekian and Zakaryan presented of classical and folk instrumental and vocal music was excellent. My wife and I were spiritually uplifted. Driving back to Philly we could not stop talking about the concert. We are grateful to Tekeyan and the Amaras Art Alliance for the sponsorship.”

The positive and invigorating effect of the program must have been widespread, because as people exited the hall, many could be heard happily exclaiming to each other words like “zkancheli” — wonderful — in praise of the performances and the celebration of independent Armenia.